I once interviewed my 87-year-old Aunt Wilma for a junior high social studies assignment called “living history.” I asked her about living through the Great Depression, and she told me there was nothing great about it.
A recent assignment to interview University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Professor William Hildebrand, Ph.D., had me thinking about that living history project. Hildebrand is a Presbyterian Health Foundation Endowed Professor and a George Lynn Cross Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at OUHSC.
Decades younger than my Aunt Wilma, Hildebrand is still a historical figure for Oklahoma's bioscience industry. His company, Pure Protein LLC, was among the first new ventures spun out of an Oklahoma university after State Questions 680 and 681 were approved in 1998 by Oklahoma voters.
Those two constitutional amendments authorized Oklahoma universities and academic researchers to own equity in companies that were commercializing technologies the universities invented. By 1999, Hildebrand had licensed the patented technology from OU and launched Pure Protein.
“Until (State Questions) 680 and 681, scientists had to either divorce themselves from the university or divorce themselves from the science in order for it to be commercialized,” Hildebrand said. “With 680 and 681, the state said ‘let's have the university and its researchers create jobs and build infrastructure here in Oklahoma.'”
As an OU researcher, Hildebrand developed a genetically engineered human leukocyte antigen (HLA) molecule. He owns 30 patents surrounding the technology. HLA is the molecule that triggers human immune responses to viruses such as influenza, allergies, autoimmune reactions such as Lupus, and the rejection of transplanted hearts.